Is it better to live in North Dakota than California? Survey says yes

North Dakota tops Gallops 2013 well-being index.
(Dave Kolpack / Associated Press)

Despite the sunshine and the palm trees, the mountains and the beaches, California residents are not the happiest people in America.

In a new Gallup-Healthways poll that ranks well-being by state, California doesn’t even make it into the top 10.

People from North Dakota had the highest-well being in the country with an overall well-being index score of 70.4 out of a possible 100. Their neighbors in South Dakota came in second place with a score of 70.


California’s well-being index score was 67.6 -- a little higher than the national average of 66.2.

The Golden State is tied with Alaska for well-being, but is well behind Nebraska (third highest), Vermont (sixth highest), Hawaii (eighth highest) and Iowa (10th highest).

To determine the well-being of the residents of a particular state, the researchers calculated six sub-indexes including life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities.

People in North Dakota scored highest on both work environment and physical health. Alaskans had the highest emotional health index score. People in Vermont reported the healthiest behaviors, and for the fourth year in a row, people from Massachusetts ranked first for access to basic necessities -- in part because the state has the highest percentage of residents with health insurance in the U.S.

West Virginia was ranked lowest on the well-being index with a score of 61.4, followed by Kentucky (63), Mississippi (63.7) and Alabama (64.1). People in West Virginia also ranked lowest in life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access. People in Mississippi reported the worst work environments.

Across the nation, well-being fell slightly from 66.7 in 2012 to 66.2 in 2013.

The results of the survey were based on more than 178,000 phone interviews with adults from January-December of 2013. If you want to explore your state’s well-being, check out Gallup’s interactive map.

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